The way Larry Scott is remolding the Pac-10 — err Pac-12, um, Pac-16 — is no surprise to those here in New York at the U.S. Open. They saw the way he reworked what once was called the Women’s Tennis Association but now goes only by the initials WTA.
Scott was the demon of change when he served for six years as the chairman and CEO of the tour.
“He elevated the sport to new heights,” said Andrew Walker, chief marketing officer of the WTA. “He had a clear vision across all our key business drivers on how to establish new milestones for the sport.”
Which is why the old Pac-10, headquartered out in the deep suburbia of Walnut Creek, went after Scott. It was determined to be as big a player in college sports as, say, Serena Williams is in tennis.
And which is why once Scott, who graduated from Harvard — who played unspectacularly on the men’s tennis tour, who knows sports from the locker room to the dollar sign — is going after Texas and Oklahoma for the Pac-Whatever-you-want-to-call-it.
A man from CBS.com described him as “predatory” for plucking or attempting to pluck top-name schools from their historic conferences — if a league as new as the Big 12 could be called historic — and for aligning them with the once-sleepy Pac-10-now-12.
A bit strong. Scott is what people in sports must always be: staying competitive.
Geography means nothing in the world of television, something we discovered not long after the original Monday Night Football came into existence back in the 1970s. If it’s on the screen, it’s relevant. The simple fact the Dallas Cowboys were known, correctly or not, as “America’s Team” is the only proof you need.
The Pac-12, which began as the six-team AAWU in 1959, is now trying to be known as America’s Conference. If anyone can bring that about, it’s Scott.
“From signing the largest sponsorship deal in the history of [tennis],” Walker said, “to the largest TV deal in the WTA history, to the historic achievement of equal prize money [at the Grand Slams] ... Larry set new standards for the sport.”
Serena Williams, as others here waiting out the rain after reaching the Open quarterfinals, called Scott a visionary.
“He has done so much for the players,” she said when, two years ago, he resigned to go west.
During a press conference in March 2009, Scott said, “The thing I’ll be most proud of is finishing off the campaign for equal prize money started by Billie Jean King in the 1970s. A lot of people thought it wouldn’t really happen in their lifetime.”
A comment that would apply to the continuing realignment of college sports.
Nebraska in the Big Ten (which is made up of 12 teams)? Texas Christian going to the Big East? Texas A&M heading to the Southeast Conference? Then why not Oklahoma and Texas in a league based along the shores of the Pacific Ocean?
The ladies of the WTA, in action at this final Grand Slam of the year, know what Larry Scott did for them. Now we wonder what Scott will do for, and maybe to, the Pac-12 and everybody else in college sports.